Saturday, July 08, 2006

Northwoods report

I made it back today, after 8200+ miles of driving on the longest trip I've taken in all sorts of ways, physical and metaphorical. It's like trip zeugma. (Zeugma is one of my very favorite words; just saying it makes me grin and think of stained honor and brocades.)

Thanks for all the responses to my last post. I had a good visit with my Mom overall, and I do recognize that I'm lucky to have parents who were caring, good parents, responsible, and so forth. Sometimes I wish they'd been a bit more willing to take chances, but it's not for me to judge a life I didn't lead. That's the first lesson for me; the second is that I should take more chances myself.

I listened to four really interesting books along the way, each of which intersected with the others and my trip unexpectedly. First, I listened to Guns, Germs, and Steel, which makes an argument that the array of domesticable food plants and animals on the given continents, and the ecological / geographical distributions enabled the history of human social development. Very interesting stuff.

Second, I listened to Blue Shoes and Happiness, one of Alexander McCall Smith's novels from the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series. They're set in Botswana, and it was a nice sort of prep as I headed to my Peace Corps Reunion.

Third, I listened to To See Every Bird on Earth; it's a fascinating combination of a social history of birding (especially in the US), a biography and autobiography, and birding stuff. After listening, as I was driving through the Texas Oklahoma area, I instantly recognized the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher. Its interest in the biodiversity and speciation of birds intersected nicely with Guns, Germs, and Steel, too, and with a bit of Blue Shoes, even!

I love birds, though it took me a long time in life to get to that point, having always wanted to focus on mammals through my college years. Having a conure while I was in the Peace Corps was my first intimate experience with a bird, and brought me to a point of interest and respect. Someday I should post on waking up to an intimate grooming of my eyelashes.

I really never understood big lister types in birding; my preference is to settle down and watch for a while, and try to get a feel for birds I see. But I also like seeing birds. I'm thinking of writing down my personal list, which I've never done; I think I may have a hundred birds, which is a far cry from serious birders!

Finally, I listened to Salt, which is a social history of, you guessed it, salt, mostly but not only sodium chloride. It was also fascinating, and took me back to thinking about evolution and geography and stuffs again.

I usually choose history and biography type books to listen to when I drive long distances; for me, literature is more to be enjoyed visually, on some level, and savored in rereading bits, going back and forth making connections. But listening to history or biography works pretty well for me driving, especially since I often listen to the same text more than once, to pick up stuff I missed.

More on the highlights of the trip later!


  1. I love Mma Ramotswe (sp?) stories! And since you lived in Botswana, can you clarify something? Mma is like "Ma'am," right? Or something like that?

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  3. Alas, TD, I've never been to Botswana; I served in Latin America. So I have no clue what "Mma" means.

  4. Welcome home ! It sounds like you had a wonderful trip.

  5. Anonymous7:17 AM

    My introduction to Mma Ramotswe was listening to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency on cd while doing the most awful lab work while finishing up my PhD. The book had a wonderful reader with a charming, musical, I suppose Botswanan, accent. It was delightful. Almost made up for the lab work!

    When I drive or do lab work I listen to pure mind candy. Harry Potter, Laurie R. King, The Devil Wears Prada... If I want to have serious stuff, I need a pen in my hand!

    Glad you had a great trip and arrived safely.